If you’re interested in what it means to be a Christian and how to start following Jesus, we are so excited for you, and we've prepared this guide for you as you begin taking your first steps on this journey! We hope this is helpful for you as you explore your newfound faith.
UNDERSTANDING THE GOSPEL
Our journey with Jesus begins with understanding the gospel (which is another word for good news). In the Bible we find both bad news and good news, and it's important to understand both.
The bad news: Humanity was created to live in relationship with God as our King, loving and worshiping him and enjoying the beautiful creation he entrusted to us. But the first humans sinned against God, rejecting him as their king, and the penalty of their sin was death (Gen. 3). When Adam and Eve sinned they experienced spiritual death and brought a curse on creation. This is why our world is so broken. All of humanity now shares a sinful nature, which means we are cut off from relationship with God, spiritually dead, and deserving of hell—we are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3).
The good news (the gospel): Though we sinned against God, he did not stop loving us. He loved us so much so that he sent us his Son to pay the penalty for our sin and grant us forgiveness and eternal life (Rom. 6:23; John 3:16). By believing in Jesus we can be reconciled to God, brought back into his kingdom, and raised to spiritual life with God forever. This salvation is a free gift that God grants to us out of his grace: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). Now that is good news!
REPENTING FROM SIN AND RECEIVING CHRIST
Our relationship with God begins with responding to the gospel by repenting from sin, believing the gospel, and receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, Redeemer and King, the true Treasure of our lives.
Repenting: To repent means to have a change of mind and heart, and to turn the other direction. To be a Christian means turning away from sin and self-reliance, and then turning toward Jesus Christ in faith, to believe the gospel and receive him as Lord, Savior, and King: "the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Repentance means denying ourselves and leaving behind our old life to start following Jesus for the rest of our lives.
"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?'" (Matt. 16:24-26)
Receiving Christ: The Bible says that, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9). When we repent from our sins, believe the gospel, and make Jesus our Lord and King, we are saved—forgiven of all our sins and adopted into God's family as his children: "to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). We are sealed with God's Holy Spirit until the day Christ returns to make all things new, and he continues to work in our lives until that day (Eph. 1:13; Phil. 1:6).
BEING BAPTIZED AS A BELIEVER
After Jesus died and rose, he called his disciples share the gospel with the world, make more disciples, and baptize those new believers as they turned their lives over to God (Matt. 28:19). Baptism is the practice of being immersed in water to signify our repentance from sin and faith in Jesus (Acts 2:38-47).
What baptism does not do: Baptism itself does not save us. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, not by any works that we do (Eph. 2:8-9). Apart from genuine faith in Jesus Christ, baptism is nothing more than getting wet.
What baptism does do: Baptism does show outwardly what God has already done inwardly for those who have trusted Christ. Augustine, a 5th century theologian, memorably described baptism as an outward, visible sign of an inward, spiritual grace. Baptism is a sign or a pointer to what God has done in our lives through Christ: we are washed and cleansed of our sins (Tit. 3:5-6), we are dead to sin and alive to God (Rom. 6:3-5; 11), we are united to Christ and his body (1 Cor. 12:13). Being baptized shows outwardly and publicly what God has done inwardly and privately within us.
Following Jesus is something we do for our whole lives! As Christ-followers we are on a lifelong journey of walking by faith, growing in grace, and becoming the people God wants us to be by the power of his Holy Spirit. We would love to connect with you and help you take your next step in following Jesus—whether that means getting baptized, visiting the church, learning how to read and study the Bible, getting involved in community, or serving others—let us know how we can walk alongside you in this journey!